Federal employees lack tools for mobile work, study finds

Telework group says smartphones could yield federal agencies billions in annual employee productivity gains

Federal employees are becoming more mobile, but government agencies are missing opportunities to improve employees' productivity when they're out of the office, concludes new research from the Telework Exchange. The group says smartphones could yield federal agencies billions in employee productivity gains

Federal employees are becoming more mobile, but government agencies are missing opportunities to improve employees' productivity when they're working outside the office, concludes new research from the Telework Exchange.

Eighty-two percent of federal employees spend work time outside of the office each month, the telework advocacy group found in its latest survey, published Wednesday. Among those, 42% telework at least part time and 20% spend at least a portion of two days per week outside of the office. In addition, 80% of mobile employees say they spend at least 20% more time working outside of the office -- teleworking or traveling for business -- today than they did a year ago. (Read a story about the bare facts of teleworking.)

Among the most productive of these mobile employees are those who use a smartphone for work purposes. Smartphone-carrying mobile employees reported an average time savings/productivity gain of 54 minutes per day. But despite the productivity advantage, 66% of federal employees who report some mobility do not currently have a smartphone, the Telework Exchange found.

So how might the government benefit from giving smartphones to more federal employees? Telework Exchange extrapolated the data it collected: If the estimated 1.4 million federal employees who spend work time outside the office without a smartphone had one, the federal government could achieve an estimated $37 million in additional productivity per day (based on a $29 average hourly wage).

Federal employees would welcome the chance to carry a smartphone, it seems. Just 16% of federal employees give their agency an "A" for equipping employees with the right tools for mobile communication and remote access. The top reasons employees want smartphones are to stay organized and responsive (cited by 69% of respondents) and to remain connected on the job (21%), the study found.

From the agency standpoint, those agencies that have issued smartphones to mobile employees justify the expense by citing continuity of operations (61%), increased productivity (59%) and support for telework initiatives (23%).

The majority of federal employees are already mobile, and they want to make the most of their time, says Cindy Auten, general manager of the Telework Exchange. Outfitting them with the right technology to do their jobs when they're traveling or working from home is critical, she says. "The idea is to work smarter during the downtime. I think it's a great opportunity," Auten says.

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